Back to ZNet
Back to Parecon: Life After Capitalism Book Page
Buy Parecon: Life After Capitalism in print
Excitement / Attainability
Can We Have A Parecon, Or Is History Forever Capitalist?
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.
Is participatory economics exciting enough to attract abiding support? Are conditions bequeathed to us by past history conducive to allowing us to win against existing obstacles and thereby attain participatory economics?
Lacking excitement may seem like an odd criticism, but from an activist standpoint, it is not. It is not enough that goals posited for our future be desirable or even wonderful. They must also attract support. If not, they will exist on paper, but not in deeds. Words that lack excitement might inform or brighten the lives of a few who study them, but they are unlikely to transform the lives of all those who work and consume (or of all those who nurture the next generation, who teach or learn, who celebrate and identify, or who create laws, who adjudicate disputes).
Yes, parecon is a good model if it is a wonderful economy: viable and desirable. It is a good social vision, however, only if it is a good model and also attractive to widespread and growing constituencies. This is the excitement factor. But if parecon is viable and desirable, then the excitement factor is overwhelmingly a matter of how parecon is communicated. Its contents are certainly consistent with the possibility of exciting expression. More justice is more inspiring than less justice. More democracy is more inspiring than less democracy. More equity, diversity, and self-management are more inspiring than less equity, diversity, and self-management. The particular words one person uses to talk about parecon may not be overly inspiringsomething of which I may be guilty. But the solution to that is for others to do better both in further refining and improving the model, and especially in conveying that it is a worthy practical vision and making it so.
What about attainability? Is parecon an attainable aspiration for the populations of countries like the United States, Brazil, Italy, Venezuela, Greece, England, Australia, Russia, Mexico, France, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Argentina, Haiti, and Japan, etc.?
Normal citizens feel two very important obstacles to under- taking social change efforts:
1 The fear that even if they were to win a new world, it would turn out to be just like the old worldor worse.
2 The doubt that they could ever do anything that would win a new world.
This book directly addresses point (1), at least regarding economics. It argues that if we manage to attain a parecon it will be vastly superior to capitalism and it will not devolve or degenerate back into the oppressive modes we now know, but will instead prosper and evolve positively, consistent with its guiding values. The model is thus viable and worthy. Attaining it would be worth it.
But can we attain it? This is a very different question. Ultimately the only proof is to succeed. Short of that the only argument for its possibility is:
1 Recognition that what humanity creates humanity can transcendfeudalism was not forever, slavery was not forever, neither capitalism nor coordinatorism will be forever.
2 Recognition that elements of parecon have already been implemented successfully. At www.parecon.org there are links to organizations that have explicitly implemented pieces of the parecon vision in their practice as well as accounts of those efforts, further discussion of the model, and considerable strategic discussion, as well. For that matter, our own daily lives are full of aspects of the norms and even the logic of parecon which we cling to obstinately with our better selves against the pressures of the societies we endure.
3 A presentation of a broad set of strategic guidelines, aims, programs, structures, and steps, each of which can evidently be accomplished and which all together reveal a scenario that could end in a participatory economy. Regarding strategic demands and efforts that could accumulate into a process attaining a parecon, we cannot undertake such a discussion here, but in Moving Forward (AK Press, 2001), elements of that discussion are the primary focus.
Still, if the proof is ultimately only in the practice, the confidence to even try to attain participatory economic goals that comes from faith in human progress, from experience of expanding successes, and from consciousness of plausible scenarios of change depends first on more people entering the camp of those advocating parecon and trying to make it a reality. This book is obviously an effort to help propel that process.